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On Tuesday and Wednesday evening, the Cup with the Big Ears was back in action, much to the delight of football fans, and there was plenty to look forward to. With fixtures that lived up to expectations and Valentine’s Day parties postponed, the Champions League delivers every time. Here’s a look back at the highlights, from the Red Bull Arena to Parken Stadium, from Rome’s Stadio Olimpico to the Parc des Princes.

Leipzig Frustrated by Madrid, City Advance to Quarters

Leipzig welcomed Real Madrid to the Red Bull Arena on Tuesday evening, hoping to spring a surprise against Ancelotti’s Merengue. Unfortunately for them, the evening quickly turned into a nightmare.

After Dani Carvajal’s rough pass gifted the opposition a corner after just two minutes, Leipzig centre-forward Sesko headed home. But his effort was disallowed as Benjamin Henrichs was deemed offside and impeded goalkeeper Lunin, a highly controversial decision. Former French international and CBS pundit Thierry Henry commented: “At first I thought it was a goal, but on replay you can see it wasn’t. As a player, you’re told it’s a goal. As a player, you’re told that if you’re offside, don’t get involved. He interferes with Lunin, even though the push is weak and he was offside.”

Lunin, Real’s goalkeeper, distinguished himself late in the game by confidently repelling repeated assaults from Xavi Simons, Sesko and Amadou Haidara, as the hosts desperately sought to turn the tide. Once relegated to the role of Real’s third-choice keeper, Lunin brilliantly seized his chance following Thibaut Courtois’s injury, confirming his talent under Carlo Ancelotti. Real’s frustrations were palpable in the actions of Carvajal, who was barely spared a yellow card for a foul on Simons in the first half, but was ultimately booked for his incessant challenges to refereeing decisions in the second half. Despite their outsider status, Leipzig took on Real with a bold strategy, defending fiercely to limit their opponents’ opportunities. However, not even their defensive solidity could counter Diaz’s stroke of genius, and they had to rely on the post to keep hope alive. This breathless encounter, in which both teams lacked effectiveness, was ultimately decided by Diaz’s dazzling individual talent in Germany. With the prospect of a resounding showdown in Madrid in three weeks’ time, the excitement is at its peak, offering a thrilling new chapter where anything is still possible for both sides.

Flight to Parken Stadium

Manchester City and Guardiola are cruising along in the Champions League, and so are the records. The reigning champions made it through the group phase with a perfect record of six wins from six games, before adding a seventh consecutive victory in Denmark this week at Parken stadium (1-3). Pep Guardiola’s team demonstrated their superiority in all areas of the game at Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium, renowned for its electric atmosphere. Phil Foden sealed a deserved victory late on. With almost 80% of possession, the defending champions dominated without being seriously troubled, and will go into the return leg in Manchester in three weeks’ time confident of a place in the quarter-finals. The only fly in the ointment for City was the first-half injury to Jack Grealish.

Despite their almost absolute control, City were unable to silence the home fans. As expected, Copenhagen’s noisy fans created an intimidating atmosphere, greeting every City attack with resounding whistles and even a siren.

However, this didn’t seem to faze City too much, as they quickly took the lead. They should have taken the lead when De Bruyne missed a header from Nathan Ake’s cross. Ruben Dias also forced Kamil Grabara into a save, and Ake sent the ball over on the rebound, but a raised flag suggested the goal would have been disallowed anyway.

Copenhagen, clearly rusty after the long Danish winter break, were struggling to keep up with City, and it was no surprise when De Bruyne opened the scoring in the 11th minute. The Belgian, who quickly regained his form after a lengthy injury absence, perfectly set up Foden’s pass and finished with a precise low shot. City could hardly seem to have had enough, and were still pushing forward. Erling Haaland was inches away from meeting De Bruyne’s cross before Silva’s pass was deflected onto the post by Denis Vavro. City were upset when Grealish, making his return to the starting XI after six games, had to leave the field after 21 minutes following a duel with Diogo Goncalves. However, his replacement Jeremy Doku breathed new life into City’s attack.

Shortly after coming on, Doku fed Haaland for what could have been a sensational goal with a volleyed pass, but the Norwegian’s acrobatic effort unfortunately ended over the bar. Just when it looked as though City might score a number of goals, they found themselves level after Ederson made a fatal error to give the hosts an equalizer in the 34th minute. The keeper played a direct pass to Mohamed Elyounoussi and although the striker’s shot was blocked, newcomer Mattson opportunistically followed up to equalize. Silva restored the balance before half-time with a superb one-touch finish after De Bruyne had got past Mattson to find the Portuguese. De Bruyne almost added to the lead early in the second half, testing Grabara before Haaland again tested the keeper and Foden saw his effort deflected wide. Grabara also saved a long-range shot from Doku and Haaland was twice frustrated by the keeper in added time before Foden sealed the win after a fine exchange of passes with De Bruyne.

Bayern See Red, PSG are Already in San Sebastian

Considered serious title contenders, the Bavarians were stunned by Lazio in this match. Although Bayern are considered one of the major contenders for the Champions League, they struggled to impose their game despite having plenty of possession. For their part, Lazio showed a lack of composure as they approached their opponents’ goal, despite Luis Alberto’s shot skimming the top corner (22). A few minutes later, Leroy Sané shaved the upright with a rather atypical free-kick combination.

The first half was clearly dominated by Bayern, who controlled the match. In particular, Jamal Musiala stood out for his impact, combining speed and technique in the opponent’s box, but unfortunately no one followed up his actions. Even Musiala missed a chance after a fine Bayern move (40th). It was half-time in Rome and Lazio could breathe a sigh of relief as they headed for the dressing room.

That all changed in the second half, when Ciro Immobile scored from the penalty spot on 69 minutes to give Lazio a 1-0 victory over Bayern Munich at home in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16.

Immobile converted his penalty after Bayern defender Dayot Upamecano’s clumsy foul on Gustav Isaksen earned him a straight red card. Disciplined Lazio stifled the German team’s attacks, and Bayern were not dangerous throughout, failing to get a single shot on target.

The Bavarians, eager to bounce back from Saturday’s defeat to Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen, have now lost their last two games, putting further pressure on coach Thomas Tuchel. The return match in Munich is scheduled for March 5.

Paris Thanks Mbappé and Barcola

Real Sociedad were tenacious, but it was the Parisians’ flashes of individual brilliance that finally made the difference, breaking down the Spanish defense. Despite the Basques’ promising attacking play, the second leg promises to be played with intense fervor.

From the outset, Real Sociedad applied intense pressure (1st), demonstrating their desire to surprise the Parisians.

However, this strategy was quickly thwarted by Kylian’s recovery six minutes later in the opposition half. PSG then took the ascendancy and tried to build their attacks, but failed to really threaten. Real Sociedad’s aggressive pressing then came back to haunt the Parisian half.

The first half was marked by lacklustre play, with few chances and an unconvincing performance. Only Ousmane Dembélé’s breakaway (35th) livened things up. Real Sociedad had the last chance of the first half in added time, when Mikel Merino found himself in the ideal position to shoot, but his effort struck Gianluigi Donnarumma’s crossbar.

After the break, the Basque team came back with the same energy and even greater motivation to take control of the game, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Paris from regaining control of the ball. In the 57th minute, a corner once again saw Parisian creativity shine through, with Marquinhos heading the ball towards the far post, where patient Mbappé gave the Parisians the lead on the hour mark. Kylian Mbappé thus becomes the competition’s second-highest scorer before the age of 25, with a total of 44 goals, behind legend Lionel Messi and his 59 goals.

Buoyed by an electric Parc des Princes, Luis Enrique’s men did everything in their power to stifle Real Sociedad. The intensity was palpable, and Mbappé and his team-mates became increasingly dangerous. In the 63rd minute, the young French prodigy even saw a brace escape his grasp thanks to Alex Remiro’s perfect deflection off the bar.

Seven minutes later, Barcola stunned the Basques, who had already solidified their defence. An absolutely magnificent cross from Fabian Ruiz and a perfect catch from Barcola set the race in motion and the finish was perfectly executed. The Parc des Princes exploded for the second time as the Parisians took cover. PSG pushed on to the end but left San Sebastian with a more than significant advantage (2-0). There’s no better way to earn respect.